Published on: January 7, 2013
Last week, MNB took note of a Wall Street Journal
report that a number of retailers - including Best Buy, Toys R Us, and several regional supermarket chains - have filed complaints with the attorneys general of a half-dozen states, saying that Walmart was guilty of misleading and deceptive advertising.
The chains say that Walmart "cites inaccurate prices and compares differing products, such as laptop computers with separate specifications." The chains also say that Walmart advertised price for products that it knew it did not have sufficient supplies to meet demand, which forced competitors to lower their own prices and lose expected profits.
Walmart said that it was "confident on the legal, ethical and methodological standards associated with our price comparison ads."
My comment:Really? The ads meet Walmart's "legal, ethical and methodological standards"?
Love to know what those are, exactly.
Because I have a feeling that when exposed to, say, my "legal, ethical and methodological standards," they might have to settle for one out of three.
Then again, nobody has named me king. Or emperor.
One MNB user responded: I’ll acknowledge that retailers should not be deceptive in their advertising, but it goes back to a common warning for me. Once you’re competing on price alone, you’ve already lost. Best Buy and Toys R Us are the category “specialists” that have more opportunities to provide value-add services than Walmart (or Target) can. Their focus should be there, not on price alone.
This complaint is also very similar to the many retailers complaining about showrooming. If you’re losing customers solely on price, you deserve to. Focus on the customer experience, on providing added value to the store visit.
Another reader wrote:Anytime a competitor files a complaint against Walmart or any company, claiming something is unfair, it just show a complete lack of class on the part of that competitor. Instead coming up with a clever way to beat Walmart, they file a complaint. Filing a complaint is their way of declaring they are inept operators. Filing a complaint is the coward's way to competing. Wow, imagine that, Walmart advertises their prices and competitors are mad because they have lower their prices so not to get beat. Boo hoo big babies, welcome to retailing 101.
I don't entirely disagree with your premise, except for the use of the word "anytime." By saying that, you are suggesting that the world of commerce ought to be an unregulated free for all, with no rules other than the survival of the fittest. I can't quite go that far ... I think that when companies violate the law, they ought to be held accountable ... and that companies ought not be able to advertise products that they know they cannot provide to shoppers, at prices they do not have to live up to because they don't actually have the product. That is a kind of consumer fraud, a bait-and-switch approach that doesn't meet my idea of an ethical standard.
But you're right that the minute a complaint is filed, it does sort of look like a white flag.
Another MNB user wrote:Nobody has named you king or emperor…yet.
And from still another reader:In light of all the recent attention to Walmart's international practice standards in developing and expanding it's store base abroad, I too thought the exact same thing as you while reading your article about Best Buy et all filing illegal advertising/marketing practices against them.
As such, I now pronounce you King Kevin of Coupeland.
Thanks. But let me tell you, the domain over which I probably have the least control is Coupeland. Just ask my wife and kids...
I wrote last Friday about Feargal Quinn, who was named by by small and medium business owners in Ireland as their "most admired entrepreneur":Forget just being an entrepreneur. In my book, Feargal Quinn is one of the people I admire most in the world in any category ... and I've met a lot of people doing my job over the past 30 years or so. He's smart, innovative, charming ... and just a nice guy. Every once in a while, some boob will write me an email and suggest that I'm wrong for describing people in the industry as being "nice," because nice people rarely make great business leaders. Feargal Quinn is one of the people who prove this to be wrong - that nice people actually can finish first.
Which led one MNB user to write:In over 35 years in this business, I’ve run across all sorts, from nice guys and nice ladies, to the extreme opposite end of the spectrum. I can say I’ve net a number of nice, considerate, successful people. Many of them are tough, hard – nosed people who expect me to do my job, but to a fault they tend to be fair, and many of them, if I need a special favor from them, will bend over backwards for me.
That's generally been my experience. Being nice is not necessarily antithetical to being tough. In fact, it is a lot easier to accept toughness from someone who is an essentially decent human being. Jerks who are tough are, in the end, just tough jerks. And people who think that toughness is more important than decency and niceness are people with misplaced priorities, people who find that it is easier to be grumpy than pleasant.
Which is very much not
From another MNB user on an entirely different subject:A little anecdote for why Barnes & Noble will not survive...
This Christmas my daughter wanted the full Chronicles of Narnia series. I went online and liked the “look” of the set better at Barnes & Noble than at Amazon as we were going for aesthetics when buying the full set. I saw that Barnes & Noble had an option to pick up in store and so I decided I could go pick up the set on my lunch break rather than have it sent to my home. I reserved in store and was excited as they offered an option to receive a text when your requested books were reserved. Convenience!! However when I received my text I was surprised to see that my boxed set was $11 more expensive than the price quoted online. I called my local Barnes & Noble to ask about this and was told that they do not match their online prices. Why??!! Why would I ever go to a bricks and mortar Barnes & Noble again if I can get the books cheaper from their own online store (or Amazon that had a cheaper but uglier set)?
I think that unless Barnes & Noble can better integrate their channels they should abandon their bricks and mortar locations and stick with a business model that seems to work better – online. Then maybe they could dedicate more resources to promoting their Nook and digital content. By the way I cancelled my reservation and had the books shipped to my home for free.
We reported last week that Tully's Coffee has been acquired by an investment group fronted by actor Patrick Dempsey, for $9.15 million. The deal includes the chain's 47 stores, as well as franchise rights.
Dempsey plays Dr. Derek Shepherd (nicknamed "McDreamy") in the TV series "Grey's Anatomy," which is set in a fictional Seattle hospital.
MNB user John A. Conroy wrote:
In the movie Made of Honor
, Dempsey’s character made his fortune by inventing the coffee collar…seems like he has a history with this industry.
Absolutely right. I forgot about that.
Extra credit for making a movie reference...
And, speaking of movie references....MNB user Craig Espelien wrote:I watched Moneyball for the first time over the weekend and was very impressed. I was even more impressed when I was able to take a piece of the movie and apply it to business. It was interesting to see them break down a metric – runs scored – into how those runs were generated settling on OBP (On Base Percentage) as the main driver of the necessary success metric (runs scored).
I got to wondering about our business – selling products for our supplier partners into our retailer base (our customers) so they can get their consumers to buy them.
We measure success by top line sales – and bottom line revenues (commissions) and I got to thinking about how to best define how we make that happen – and the one word answer is: Distribution. From getting items from existing suppliers into retail distribution to getting an expanded footprint into additional retailer DC’s to making sure each item is on the store shelf to identifying other potential items from suppliers (items formulated but not yet commercialized) into distribution to creating custom items with new manufacturers. This seems (even after a couple of days of soul searching) to be a simple way to define our business – and drive our sales teams to better performance.
That got me thinking about that one thing that drives anyone’s business – and working that backwards into the most basic item that drives that metric. I wonder how many folks truly understand what their OBP is…I think we now know what ours is.
As Michael Sansolo and I always say ... movies generally provide the answer to almost every business question. But then again, we would ... since we wrote a book on the subject.
Regarding the acquisition of Al Gore's CurrentTV cable network by Al Jazeera, MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf wrote:I was (evidently) one of the few people who went through the trouble to add Current TV to my cable package when I learned Keith Olberman was going to have a presence on it. We all know how that worked out. I continued to watch even after his departure because I appreciate diverse opinions. Not so with Time-Warner I am sorry to report. By 8:00 am this morning Current had gone dark. I guess T-W wanted to get it off the air before we Americans had a chance to be corrupted by those radical Muslims.
We reported last week about how Starbucks, long criticized for the sheer bulk of disposable cups that it sends into the nation's dumpsters, landfills and garbage dumps, is introducing a $1 plastic reusable cup.
I commented:Maybe I'm wrong on this, but I have a hard time believing that this is anything more than a public relations effort. I try to think about these issues, and I have plenty of travel mugs at my disposal, but I never remember to bring them to Starbucks. Hard to believe that a $1 reusable cup will change my habits.
One MNB user responded:Will wonders never cease....KC, you and I agree on this issue. This is nothing but a public relations ploy.... As with most of these efforts to move to reusable anything, if you really look at the advantage and/or the environmental impact, they amount to nothing over the long term. This is just "feel-good" policy.
Another MNB user wrote:Since sustainability is my “thing” I thought I would offer some ideas to help you to remember your reusable coffee mugs since you seem genuinely interested in trying to use them.
Since you have a lot of them, if you are driving, when you come home, immediately put a clean, empty one back in the car. Or put a bag of clean ones in the car.
I believe you carry a Timbuk laptop bag – if yours has a pouch on the end, same thing – when you pack up your laptop, add a clean mug.
Lastly, if there is space in your house, you can hang a reusable bag with clean coffee mugs/water bottles by your door for an easy reminder.
One small act, one person CAN make a difference.
MNB user Jon Pauss wrote:I will admit that I was a little irritated by your response this morning to the Starbucks reusable cup story. I think your response illustrates the biggest problem with recycling, cutting down on waste, cutting down on CO2 emissions, etc. At the end of the day, it is a personal choice, and unless every individual steps up and takes on personal responsibility, then the problems will never get solved. In this case, you have a company (Starbucks) that is making a big step to try and help cut down on waste, and you say it won’t make a difference because you can’t change your habits. This obviously isn’t about the $1 for the cup, it’s just about you personally (and a lot of other people) being too lazy or not caring enough to put in the (very) minimal effort to remember to bring in a cup when you get your coffee each morning. Come on, my friend, you’re better than that! If you subscribe to the concept that “your vote counts” during an election, then you should subscribe to the concept that each individual can make a difference when it comes to the environment. Both concepts are built on the same foundation.
It’s funny to me how everyone says we have to cut down on the national debt for “our children” or “our children’s children”, but then so many people care so little about the environmental issues I point out above. In many ways, these environmental issues, if not addressed, will have far greater negative consequences on future generations than our country’s national debt problem.
And for the record, I’m far from perfect myself. I drive long distances often and pollute the environment with my car, sometimes don’t want to walk an extra 25 feet to recycle a cup, and many other things I’m sure. This is an area where almost all of us could improve, including myself.
Fair enough criticism.
MNB user Theron J. Knapp wrote:I would be happy to find and use a travel mug, but Starbucks never seems to have Venti mugs for hot drinks available. In fact, I checked their website before writing this and there is not a single venti mug available, only cold venti sized straws.
Reusable will be big saver as I usually order an Americano which many Baristas will pour into one venti cup and add an extra venti cup for insulation against the heat.
MNB user Christina Daugert wrote:This is a lot like the reusable grocery store bags. Once you get into the habit it becomes 2nd nature if you set it up right in your mind. If it were part of my daily morning routine to leave the house and drive to a Starbucks, I would put the clean cup near my keys or whatever items I grabbed in the morning on the way out of the house. If I were walking to a Starbuck's it would be easier yet since I would know I was heading there.
The monetary incentive is a boost but overtime it is a good feeling overall to know you are helping the planet in some small way.
And MNB user Brian Anderson had what I think is a great idea:If Starbucks offered a washing or rinsing service before they refilled your cup this might actually work. You could just leave it in your car.
And finally, I did a commentary last week about the importance of thinking long-term and trying to do things right, and used continuity goofs on the old "Mannix" TV series as an illustration. Which led MNB user Stewart Sundholm to write:I'm TOTALLY watching a Mannix re-run next time I see one on TV to see those continuity goofs.
I watched a couple more episodes over the weekend and had a surreal moment. In one episode, there was a witness being interviewed on a beach ... he has a mustache, curly hair and was wearing a bathing suit ... and I suddenly realized it was Tom Selleck in a small, one-line role. And then, in the very next episode, a hit man was played by John Hillerman.
Pop culture geeks of a certain age will understand why this was a weird overlap. But fun.